St Mary’s Belfry Restoration – Week 2 update

St Mary’s Belfry Restoration – Week 2 update

Progress continues to be made at St Mary’s this week, with the main focus being on removing the rust from the frame. Using wire brush attachments for power drills, and hand chisels the rust is easily removed without damaging the frame. However the difficulty in getting into the right location in a tight and complex bell frame to tackle the rusty areas has resulted in a slow and steady approach to progress. However good ground has been made with around 75% of the frame now having been wire brushed.
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Kristian, one of the local volunteer ringers trying to get into the right location for rust removal

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Looking for the best place to tackle next

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Rust and dust everywhere!

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Philip and Kristian, two of the local band looking grubby after a day of removing rust

This week also saw the extension of the power and control cables from the winch (which controls the sound control) down into the ringing room which will eventually be wired into a nice control panel. A few other jobs were also completed this week, the wheel braces were thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned and are now hung ready for painting.

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Most of the wheel braces hung ready to be painted

The nuts and bolts from the wheels were also cleaned and are currently sat soaking in vinegar to remove the years of rust which have formed on them.

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Nuts and bolts soaking in vinegar

The hasting dingles were removed from all of the stays and given a good scrub and clean ready for painting. In the process however, 3 stays were found to have rather large cracks in them, and although these cracks have probably been there for many years, it has been decided to replace them now during this ideal period of belfry maintenance.

The  hasting stay dingles laid our ready for painting

We also encountered a peculiar problem with the clock today (Sunday). On arriving at the tower we found that the clock had stopped, and on inspection we could find no reason. We queried the possibility of there being power problems, but this was discounted fairly quickly. Eventually on climbing the tower we found the problem! The main clock shaft which rises through the bells to the clock faces had wound an extension cable around itself about 15 times, until the box of the extension cable had jammed between the floor and the clock shaft! After lots of unwinding the clock was working fine again, and we were lucky in that no damage was caused to the mechanism. A lesson learnt there!


We also produced an information board to be located in the church, to keep the congregation up to date as to what we are up to, as a fair few people have wondered why the bells are silent at the moment.

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 Information board in the church

Next week…

The first part of the upcoming week will focus on finishing the rust removal and sanding down all 10 bell wheels (Sanding the wheels was originally scheduled for the past week, but has been pushed back slightly to allow more focus on removing the rust from the frame) followed by giving the frame and belfry an extensive clean. A whole day has been set aside for this cleaning, as it is very important to make sure all the rust we have removed and any dust is cleared away before we start painting.

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Paint ready to start going on the frame next week

After everything has been cleaned new protective sheeting will be laid down in the belfry and around the bells so that hopefully towards the end of the week painting can begin with the first coat, a Zinc primer, which will act to protect the frame from rusting. An update of the progress will be posted again this time next week.

Daniel Graham

Steeple Keeper, Southampton City Ringersphoto 13

 Looking very dirty after a day of removing rust!